AT THE start of last week, if you had asked York City midfielder Lee Bullock if he had a chance of being involved in today’s encounter with former club Bradford City, he would have answered: ‘very unlikely’.
The maxim ‘never go back’ has certainly rung true regarding the Teessider’s second spell at Bootham Crescent, where he has been on the periphery virtually all season, having to largely settle for morsels of action from the bench.
The 31-year-old found himself being sent on loan to Conference outfit Gateshead in early winter, with a return to the International Stadium on the cards recently until manager Gary Mills – mindful of City’s increasingly worrying position in League Two and the need to utilise any experience at his disposal – put the block on it.
It is pushing it to suggest Bullock, whose contract runs out in the summer and who is likely to leave, will be propelled back into the first-team.
But after two successive substitute appearances against Oxford and Rotherham – after just two cameos prior to that this calendar year – at least Bullock feels involved again and he is willing to pitch in for the greater good in the collective bid to protect York’s precious Football League status a season on from reclaiming it.
A run of 10 games without a win – York’s worst run since the Spring of 2005 – has set the alarm bells ringing with the club just four points above the drop zone.
Some fans are even looking back to the disastrous relegation season of 2003-04, when a horrendous 20-match winless streak in the second-half of that campaign saw them plunge head-first out of the league.
Bullock, a member of that side until being transferred to Cardiff in late-season, insists the situation is nothing like as grave as then.
But he knows three points against his old club today would go a long way to alleviating immediate danger.
Bullock, set to be on the bench this afternoon, said: “It is nothing like when we got relegated. We have had so many draws, it’s not as if we have been getting beaten. It is just a fine line in terms of turning them into victories.
“We had a little slump, I do not think anyone can deny that. But the last few games have been a lot better and we have played some positive football.
“We would have taken a point from both Oxford and Rotherham. But with the way we played, we could have taken six from them.
“It was obviously disappointing to concede in stoppage-time on Tuesday, but it has given the lads confidence and our heads are up for a big game on Saturday. I am sure we will come through the other side.
“It is an issue, don’t get me wrong, but not a crisis or anything like that. We just need one or two more wins to get 50 points. We have got 40 at the minute.”
Happy to play his part again after being frozen out, Bullock is taking inspiration from the situation of Middlesbrough’s Scottish international defender Stephen McManus in his bid to salvage something from a forgettable season.
Bullock said: “I am a Boro fan and have read about Stephen McManus having had the same thing happen to him as me. He is now back in and has obviously trained and got on with it.
“If I had been asked whether I would feature against Bradford say 10 days ago, I would have said: ‘There’s not a chance.’ But a week is a long time in football.
“Not so long ago, I was training on my own. But now I have been on the bench in the last two games and that showed how things can change. It is no good sulking or being a bad egg. You just get on with it. At the moment with the position we are in, it is all hands on deck.
“I wanted to go to Gateshead because I was playing and doing well and enjoying it. But I am contracted with York and they called me back and I didn’t have a problem with that. That’s fair enough.
“York staying up is the priority and making sure we have an enjoyable end to the season instead of a nerve-wracking one. With a couple of wins, everyone can enjoy the rest of the season and say: ‘Job done’.”
Bullock may be attempting to turn over old club Bradford this afternoon but the former Bantams club captain admits he was like a fan watching their stunning Capital One Cup exploits, which captivated so many people across the country.
He still keeps in touch with several at the club, including fitness trainer Nick Allenby, whom he used to drive into training with.
Bullock said: “I speak to Nick a lot as he is from up my way and I watched all the televised games, which were unbelievable and you get sucked into being a fan, really.
“To play them just after they have played at Wembley makes it an even bigger local derby and every team will want to beat them after seeing them in the Capital One Cup final.
“I would be lying if I did not say I was jealous watching them at Wembley! Nick said the lads were a bit disappointed how it went on Sunday and were saying how much they wanted to get things back going in the league.
“Having had a taste of it, they now want a little bit more and are aiming for the play-offs, while we need points for different reasons.”